Mark Johnson Wants To Reduce Over-Testing? Then Do Not Let the ACT Have This Much Power Over NC High Schools.

A little over three years ago, an extended editorial appeared in newspapers across North Carolina concerning public education. I happened to read it in the Winston-Salem Journal.

It was written by Walter McDowell, a board member of BEST NC. McDowell, a former executive with Wachovia, talked of the dire need to transform education in North Carolina. And just to clarify, there are many who will always say that we “need to transform” education. You can read that op-ed here:

In short, McDowell told the state it had a huge problem and that his consortium, BEST NC, was mapping a way for our transformation. He called it “Excellence: North Carolina’s Education Vision.”

“Recently, Excellence: North Carolina’s Education Vision was launched. It was developed with input and collaboration from education, business and policy leaders from across the state. Excellence outlines a shared vision to make North Carolina’s education system the best in the nation by 2030.

Inspired by this vision and the important work of our educators, the 115 business leaders who compose BEST NC will continue to work with the education community, the governor and the General Assembly on high-yield investments and systemic strategies that will dramatically improve students’ educational experiences in our state. It is our hope that our elected leaders see from this report that elevating educators must be at the top of the list in those discussions.”

It is always nice to think that we educators are being “lifted” in the eyes of the public, but McDowell used as one of the measures to qualify our state’s dire circumstances the state’s average ACT scores.

He said,

“Then, shortly before the budget passed, North Carolina received news that we are still last in the nation in college and career readiness as measured by the ACT exam. There could be no greater urgency in North Carolina than solving this education crisis.”

I responded to McDowell’s argument with a rebuttal. It was published in the 10/17/15 edition of the Winston-Salem Journal. Specifically, I responded to the use of the ACT as the barometer of the entire health of the NC education system. I argued,

“North Carolina is one of only 13 states (in 2015 – in 2017 it was around 17) that requires all students (EC, LEP, etc.) to take that exam, which has no impact on their transcripts, provides no feedback in its scores on how to improve student achievement and is administered on a school day on which other activities and classes take place. Most states only have paying students take the ACT on a Saturday; those students have an investment in the results, hence higher scores” (

In fact, last school year, the ACT was supposed to become the most “important test” that could be given in all of North Carolina high schools. That was thanks to CCRGAP, or the Career and College Ready Graduate Alignment Partnership.

It cannot be helped that taking out a “C” and the “G” from the acronym gives us “CRAP” was not noticed.

According to Section 10.13 of S.L. 2015-241 (and a presentation found created by the NC Community Colleges),


What that said was that if any high school junior did not make a certain score on the ACT (or its particular subject areas), then they must go through remediation during their senior year using a curriculum chosen/designed by a local community college but delivered by the high school teachers within already prescribed core courses.

In short, teachers would have had to take time in their already crowded and time-constrained classes to deliver more curriculum.  No extra time was to be given. Curriculum standards for the actual classes still had to be met. Why? Because there will be a test for them.

Ironically, it did not go “live” last school year maybe from lack of funds or lack of follow-through.

Debate over what scores were to be the threshold for whether a student had to be remediated was nebulous and rarely publicized. What was reported to this teacher in a professional development workshop in August of 2017 was the following:

GPA of 2.75 -or- 18 on English and 22 on Reading (tentative)

If you don’t know how an ACT score is broken down, then:


You can access that chart here:

What CCGRAP (as told to my school system’s English teachers) said was that all students must get at least 40 or 41 of 75 questions on the English section correct and 26 of 40 questions correct on the language portion to avoid remediation.

I have not even mentioned what was to happen with math.

That’s a high bar for all students. I repeat, a high bar. If you do not think so, then take the test yourself in a controlled situation. For students in North Carolina public schools, that administration will happen on a school day when they have other classes. Of course, many will succeed, but we are talking ALL students.

However, according to some sources, students could have escaped remediation if they had a high enough GPA. But some administrators reported being told that it was not an “OR” but an “AND” when it pertains to ACT scores and GPA requirements.

Bottom line: the ACT has a lot of power over our students. It even affects a schools performance grade, which for high schools relies much more on scores of standardized tests than it does on growth.

Interestingly enough, State Superintendent Mark Johnson delivered an interview last year  with and WRAL in which he talked about “teaching high school students that college is not the only path to success” (

But we were about to let the ACT, a college-ready testing tool, determine the lot of all students during their junior year. And this is the same Mark Johnson who talks about over-testing as well.


Yes, the ACT is considered a test of knowledge and how much a student has learned. But many studies do show that the ACT is as flawed in being concretely certain in a student’s ability to do well in college as the SAT (which students take if they want to). In fact, many studies show that grades and GPA are a better indicator than standardized tests. Here is some fodder on that:

Funny how SAT scores in North Carolina have risen in the past few years.

Also, ACT scores seem to have a greater correlation to students’ household income levels. Consider the following:


That’s from a Huffington Post report. Yes, it’s a left-leaning publication, but it is using only data points here that are really hard to refute (

We have in NC another rather good indicator of the effect of poverty in public schools. It’s called the School Performance Grade. The correlation between schools that scored “D” or “F” and high poverty levels is astounding.

The state of North Carolina pays for the administration of the ACT to all high school juniors during valuable class time on a regular school day. That’s a lot of money going to ACT. Furthermore, classroom teachers are having to administer the ACT as well as play “catch-up” with students because of the missed class time.

And DPI had their budget slashed by the General Assembly. Oh, and we have lower per-pupil expenditures now than we did in the past when adjusted for inflation.

  • So, what does our State Superintendent Mark Johnson say about this in regards to his platform of less standardized testing?
  • Is this what Walter McDowell and BEST NC had in mind?
  • Is this really what we want for our students and schools?

Those are not rhetorical questions.

A Meaningful and Valuable Part of Our School Culture – The Titan Cheerleading Squad

Malcolm and I have been to many West Forsyth football and basketball games – home and away.

Most children with Down Syndrome are highly visual learners. Malcolm is no exception. He looks for familiar people and sights. It gives him his bearings and helps with social equilibrium.

Malcolm knows the way to West Forsyth. He recognizes the roads we are on and the direction which we are headed. But for those times where we go to an away game, it can be a little bit disconcerting. That is until he sees some familiar faces.

Numerous times when we have gone to an away game, Malcolm instantly recognizes  the uniforms of the players warming up. Green and Gold are good colors for him. But when he sees the Titan cheerleaders, then he knows he is among family.

I have said it before to many people and will always repeat it, but the young ladies who are on the Titan Cheerleading Squad have been some of the classiest young ladies that I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. I say that for many reasons, but particularly how they have always gone out of their way to engage fans and young kids like Malcolm.

It was especially gratifying to see this picture in a recent Twitter feed.


Recognition for something that they have always done: representing West in an incredibly positive way.

Do not forget that these ladies cheer for more than one season, that their training program is rigorous, and that they set a tone for school spirit that has helped to create one of the most positive school cultures any school has ever had.

Congrats to them and to their coach!

And thanks for treating my kid so well.


“As God as My Witness, I Thought Turkeys Could Fly” – ISD’s, Vouchers, and Unregulated Charters in North Carolina

“As God as my witness, I thought turkeys could fly.” – Arthur Carlson, General Manager of WKRP, a fictional radio station in Cincinnati.

It’s Thanksgiving , and I just watched this episode again and it makes me laugh at how it wonderfully pens human nature which tends to be full of lofty, sometimes monetarily-induced, intentions but short on planning.

Even the theme song is memorable.

Baby, if you’ve ever wondered,
Wondered whatever became of me,
I’m living on the air in Cincinnati,
Cincinnati, WKRP.

That, and my mother-in-law thinks it is the funniest show she has ever seen. She can start explaining it and then becomes unintelligible from laughing at herself in mid sentence.

That immortal quote came from one of the best episodes of situational comedy ever to grace the airwaves of prime time television. It’s from the “Turkey Away” episode from 1978.

The show itself centers on a lovable and dysfunctional staff at a radio station that struggles to maintain a viable share of the listening market. It was a perfectly cast ensemble featuring the iconic “Johnny Fever” (Howard Hesseman), “Venus Flytrap” (Tim Reid), Less Nessman (Richard Sanders), Jennifer Marlowe (Loni Anderson), and Gordon Jump as Mr. Carlson.

The aforementioned episode concerns an elaborate marketing stunt that is high on expectations but low on research. Mr. Carlson wants to have a “turkey drop” dispensing free turkeys to families at Thanksgiving by dropping them out of a helicopter. The station would then have it’s own news reporter, Less Nessman, cover the story.

Makes sense – the thought of helping people with providing turkeys and getting great publicity. A no-lose situation. You can see that episode online here: or .

Nessman’s reporting of the turkey drop is priceless. What was supposed to be an act of goodwill toward men turned into an aviary apocalypse. According to Nessman, the live turkeys were falling “like bags of wet cement” upon the unsuspecting people below creating a cacophony of confusion and literal tower of Babel.

A plan with good intentions executed without proper vetting.

It reminds me of how many in government and business want to enact reforms and enact them without properly researching and analyzing all the factors involved. This is especially true in North Carolina.

Think of the Innovative School District. Establishing a district controlled by outside companies to administrate the education of children they do not know and controlling tax dollars of people who will have no say in how these schools are run. Proponents of the ISD district recite their good intentions as well as the need to save students from schools they could just as easily help with state-run turnaround programs. These proponents also dismiss all of the contrary evidence to their claims, especially that ISD’s (ASD’s – Achievement School District) have never improved outcomes where they have been implemented before.

It’s like throwing live turkeys out of a helicopter.

Think of the rapid rise of charter schools, especially in rural areas. In an effort to “save students from failing schools,” those in power have allowed for unregulated charter school growth to occur on the backs of the very taxpayers whose children will not be able to attend. Furthermore, no empirical evidence exists that shows charter schools perform better than traditional schools on a wide scale.

More flightless birds thrown out of a flying machine.

Think of the Opportunity Grants that are supposed to allow low-income students to receive a grant to go to a private school of their choice. Another example of “good intentions.” However, private schools can create their own admission standards and protocols. In addition, there are not many private schools of reputation that only cost $4200 in tuition fees. Also, many of the private schools that receive Opportunity Grants are religious based schools that already operate as part of a non-taxed entity and can teach curriculum that is designed in direct opposition to the curriculum that traditional schools must follow by law.

Beware of more birds!

While the comparisons between the reforming efforts of the North Carolina General Assembly and the “Turkey Away” WKRP episode are not %100 congruent, they are solid nonetheless. For instance:

  • “Good Intentions” sometimes are nicely veiled acts of greed and power grabbing. WKRP was looking for ratings as are members of our state government.
  •  Self-reporting your own accomplishments almost always is positive, but many times misleading. Less Nessman has a flair for the dramatic. Proponents of school reforms have touted results that just do not exist.
  •  Looking at what the research says, these reforming measures should have never taken place. Vouchers have never really worked, charter schools have not shown improvement, and ISD’s have a terrible track record. Mr. Carlson never bothered to see if turkeys could fly.

I will admit that there are some differences. When the turkeys dropped in the television episode they came down like “bags of wet cement.”

What is dropping in our reform movements are not turkeys, but our state’s constitutionally-bound commitment to fully provide for our public schools.

And it sounds like bags of… well, you get the picture.

And I say that with God as my witness.

“I would not change you for the world, but I will change the world for you.”

Those words were said by Amy Wright, a mother of two children who were born with Down Syndrome and the founder of Bitty and Beau’s Coffee Shop in Wilmington, NC.


Last year, she was named CNN’s Hero of the Year (

If you are the parent of a child with Down Syndrome, what Wright spoke about becoming an automatic advocate could not be more true. She explained that the role of a parent and advocate is “trying to make people see the beauty in their lives that we see.”

That CNN report also stated,

After all, people with physical and intellectual disabilities can be judged by their appearance alone. When Wright and her husband learned that 70% of the disabled are unemployed, they decided to become a part of the solution — for their children and others.

I got one of those “others.”


Malcolm has so many heroes that it would be impossible to name them all. Many of them have been the very young people who have matriculated through the halls of West Forsyth High School, where I teach.

I wouldn’t change him for the world, but I am grateful that there are so many people in his world who want to change the world for him and others.

And yes. Malcolm drinks coffee.

I see a trip to Wilmington coming.

Happy Holidays. Be safe.

Love each other. You are more alike than different. Some just may have red hair, blue eyes, and an extra chromosome.


Wayne County Does Not Want the ISD Takeover – Taking Mark Johnson’s #NCReads Tips to Understand the Wording of WCPS’s Response Letter

Every so often, State Supt. Mark Johnson releases an “NC Reads Reading Tip” on his Twitter account to give suggestions to parents and guardians about how to help foster and greater love of reading at home.


Considering those who have propped up Johnson as the state’s leader of the public school system also are trying to take over schools that suffer from high poverty and give them over to private charter companies through the Innovative School District, maybe using some of the NC Read Reading Tips to try and understand what little oversight is being used would be helpful.

It could also show whether the tips are helpful and/or show the lack of transparency and community “buy-in” that the Innovative School District really displays.

Below are some suggestions of how to use those reading tips solely to better understand how Wayne County does not want to have Carver Heights Elementary taken over by the state’s ISD district which falls under the umbrella of Mark Johnson and his version of DPI.

1.Actual NC Reads Reading Tip: “Traveling for #FourthOfJuly celebrations? Try to spend some time reading with your child to pass time. If you are driving, play audio-books that your child picks out or encourage them to read on their own. #NCReads

NC Reads Wayne County ISD Pushback Tip: Traveling for Thanksgiving? Try to spend some time reading with your family that straightforward response that Wayne County officials had to the ISD’s selection of Carver Heights. See if you can make sense of these words:

“On behalf of the Wayne County Board of Education and the entire public
school community in Wayne County, we are writing to express our serious
concerns and great dismay regarding the recommendation to transfer Carver
Heights Elementary School (CHES) from Wayne County Public Schools (WCPS)
to the Innovative School District (ISD) in the 2019-2020 school year. The ISD is
without a proven school turnaround record, without a strategic plan to assist our
children, and without any accountability to the taxpayers, parents or children of
Wayne County. Dr. Eric Hall and Ms. LaTeesa Allen witnessed our community’s
outrage at the public meeting held at Carver Heights Elementary School on
October 8, 2018. In addition, Dr. Hall has received petitions from the community
and NAACP with nearly 2,000 signatures (so far) opposing the transfer” ( 

If you are driving, have someone else read those words to you  and determine if Wayne County strongly rejects the idea of ISD coming to their system as if you read them aloud yourself.  #NCReadsWayneCountyISDPushback.

2. Actual NC Reads Reading Tip: “If you’re excited about a book or article that you’ve recently read, talk to your child about it! Your enthusiasm will show your child just how fun reading can be.”

NC Reads Wayne County ISD Pushback Tip: If you’re frustrated about realizing how inadequately the state is really helping Carver Heights Elementary all in the name of a privatization effort, then talk to others about it! Your frustration will show your friends just how stupid the ISD reform effort really is! #NCReadsWayneCountyISDPushback.

3. Actual NC Reads Reading Tip:“After finishing a story, have your child repeat the big events of the story in chronological order. Incorporate #drawing to make it even more engaging! “

NC Reads Wayne County ISD Pushback Tip: After finishing reading the letter from Wayne County officials, try to explain what how the state could not understand what it says. Incorporate #handjestures like a “faceplant” to make it even more frustrating! #NCReadsWayneCountyISDPushback.

4. Actual NC Reads Reading Tip: “Give your child books with predictable vocabulary and clear rhythmic patterns. This way they can “hear” the sound of fluent reading as they read the book aloud. #AudioBooks are great for them to follow along with as well.”

NC Reads Wayne County ISD Pushback Tip: Try and figure out which parts of the Wayne County letter can not be understood – which should be NONE. Read this aloud to your kids in a fluent manner:

“An additional concern for WCPS is the heavily segregated nature of Carver Heights
Elementary School. WCPS is actively engaged with a highly respected demographer and is analyzing the demographics of the district as the next step in a redistricting process intended to address the makeup of our schools. The taking of this school, and the restrictions on school assignment in the ISD statutes would prevent and interfere with these efforts for possibly the next five (5) years, to the detriment of our overall student population, the students at Carver Heights Elementary School, and our community as a whole” ( 

This way people can “hear” just how ludicrous this ISD takeover is. #NCReadsWayneCountyISDPushback.

5. Actual NC Reads Reading Tip: “Before children can identify letter sounds in words or reading, they can learn how spoken language can be broken down into smaller pieces. Help children learn to break sentences down into words, then words into syllables.”

NC Reads Wayne County ISD Pushback Tip: Before people can identify exactly what the letter states, they can try and break down the text into smaller pieces. In fact, the letter follows a logical outline.  Help them learn that no matter how one reads the letter, Wayne County does not want the ISD taking over Carver Heights. #NCReadsWayneCountyISDPushback.

6. Actual NC Reads Reading Tip: “Reading just 20 minutes a day with your child will help them read on grade level. Be sure to ask questions about what they read. Talking about the words in the book will help them understand what they are reading even more. #NCEd#NCReads

NC Reads Wayne County ISD Pushback Tip: Actually in 20 minutes, one could read the letter many times and get the same result – Wayne County does not want the ISD takeover. #NCReadsWayneCountyISDPushback.

7. Actual NC Reads Reading Tip: “Bring along a book or a magazine any time your child has to wait for something. Whether it be at the doctor or in the cart at the grocery store, it is always helpful to fit in reading practice!”

NC Reads Wayne County ISD Pushback Tip: Bring along a pillow any time you and your friends have to wait for something. You can have something to scream into if you pass that time reading the letter and knowing that the ISD district will not in any way take it to heart. #NCReadsWayneCountyISDPushback.

8. Actual NC Reads Reading Tip: “Early readers can practice retelling a story after reading by drawing pictures of the beginning, middle and end of the story. As they continue to grow as a reader, they can label the pictures and write their own summaries for each.”

NC Reads Wayne County ISD Pushback Tip: Early readers can practice retelling a story after reading by drawing pictures. Try that with this letter and visually show the dismay that Wayne County has towards the state’s selection of Wayne County. There are MANY PICTURES ONE CAN USE.

MANY! Like:



9. Actual NC Reads Reading Tip: “Read a story over and over to your child, even if it feels like the 100th time! As you read, pause and ask your child about what is going on in the book. Be sure to ask about pictures too. You are helping your child build comprehension!”

NC Reads Wayne County ISD Pushback Tip: Read that letter over and over to yourself, even if it feels like the 100th time! Notice how it still states that the community does not want this ISD takeover. #NCReadsWayneCountyISDPushback.

10. Actual NC Reads Reading Tip: “When reading at home, try to do so in a place where your children can see you reading, like a living room. When parents set this kind of example, children are more likely to try to emulate them and read on their own as well! #NCReads#NCEd

NC Reads Wayne County ISD Pushback Tip: When reading the Wayne County response letter at home, try to do so in a place where your family can see you reading, like a living room. When parents start getting irritated because they know that the powers that be want to really turn over public schooling to a private entity piece by piece, children will more than likely understand that the NCGA is deliberately weakening public education. #NCReadsWayneCountyISDPushback.


The Misuse of the Word “Innovation” – It’s Really About the People

“If you are looking at the state to be innovative, you’re looking in the wrong place,” state senator Craig Horn, R-Union, told a group of educators gathered at a NCICU Digital Learning and Research Symposium. Horn then pointed at Moody. “That person,” he said, “is innovative.” (

He is exactly right.

It’s about the people.

In fact, what makes education and even “innovation” work is people.

The delineation that Horn seems to make between the “state” and the “people” is that in public education, we should invest in people and make their environments such that they can be innovative within those realms.

That is not happening on the state level. Budget cuts, lofty rhetoric, and privatization efforts are not allowing the very people whom Horn claims are innovative to help our students in innovative ways.

One of the problems we have is that the word “innovation” has been literally hijacked as a buzzword. It’s kind of like presenting the idea of a voucher as a “scholarship.” It adds a sugary exterior to something that is really sour.

Mark Johnson loves the word “innovation.” When he assumed office he embarked on a “listening tour” around the state to gather ideas and to help craft “innovations” in classroom teaching. He said at one time that he would present those findings when that tour was over in the first summer of his term.

What really happened was a rubber-stamping of the status-quo, a complicit stance on testing, and a swirl of cursory activity to claim a false narrative.

Remember that this state renamed a failed reform effort called the “Achievement School District” with the moniker “Innovative School District.” It’s not innovative. It’s privatizing. Even the current school system targeted for the second year of this non-innovative ploy knows that it is not “innovative.”

ISD is without a proven school turnaround record, without a strategic plan to assist our children, and without any accountability to the taxpayers, parents or children of Wayne County.”

Johnson even created a high ranking post in DPI for “Innovation.” Remember that there are now FOUR Deputy State Superintendents: Operations, District Support, Early Education, and Innovation.




“Innovation?” One can see the concreteness of operations, support, and focus on early education, but “Innovation” sounds rather nebulous.

Or maybe not if you have followed Johnson’s track record these past twenty-plus months in office.

If you look under the Dept. Supt. of Innovation’s duties you will see the following:

  • Innovative School District
  • Charter Schools
  • Federal Programs
  • Career and Technical Education
  • Accountability
  • Curriculum and Instruction

What is innovative about how North Carolina has used charter schools, the ISD, and a testing culture that stigmatizes traditional public schools who combat social forces that impede student learning?

That job of Dept. Supt. of Innovation is being filled by Dr. Eric Hall who until recently was only the superintendent of the Innovative School District. So now the super of an ISD that has only one school in its district which is many miles away from DPI and has yet to prove its effectiveness but also has almost unlimited funds to ensure success will take over five other branches of DPI functionality?

If giving that many hats to one person who has yet to show results in the state as far as his previous post begs is innovative, then it is appropriately named.

But that’s not really innovation.

So, would Craig Horn be willing to tell the state his previous statement out loud? In session? In the face of a Mark Johnson or those who enable him like Berger and Moore? To teachers and public school advocates who are trying to secure the resources so that innovation could actually be used in the classroom?

Because if he is not, then his words are empty.

And empty words from a lawmaker in North Carolina concerning public education is not innovative at all.

North Carolinians Want Strong Traditional Public Schools. These People Just Found Out.

If the midterm elections in North Carolina showed anything about public education, it’s that there is still incredibly strong support for public schools being fully funded and educational reforms being more regulated and researched.

Just ask the following lawmakers:

Bill Brawley introduced and championed HB 514, a bill that literally helps to segregate student populations using property tax money to build municipal charter schools.

Brawley  lost his reelection bid.

Jeff Tarte introduced a budgetary line item that would have had the state budget fund a “donor” page to give supplies to affluent school sin his area.

Tarte is not going back to Raleigh.

Nelson Dollar was the chief budget writer for the current budget that the GOP establishment passed through a nuclear option knowing that it did not fully fund traditional public schools. He’s the person who said, “Most of the budgeting was done for the second year last year in the budget. It was obviously fully debated, fully discussed, fully amended,”  –

Dollar is not going back to Raleigh.

John Bradford introduced a bill that would have allowed businesses to literally buy their way into having their own charter schools for their employees and have state funds help finance them.

Bradford is not going back to Raleigh.

And do not forget that some people did not make it to the general election.

Justin Burr created a bill that would have every teacher report every video that was used in a classroom setting to an Orwellian office in Raleigh. He also was a leader in the redistricting efforts of the current establishment.

Burr did not even make it out of his primary.

David Curtis once wrote a letter to a new teacher scolding her for even asking for legislative help for teachers and traditional schools.

Curtis did not make it out of the primary. He resigned his post in the middle of the summer.

Apparently, the public that these people “represented” did not look at their views on public education as something that should be “representative” of their own views.

Just imagine what might have happened if our districts were not always being redrawn








The Latest Red-Herring Survey From Supt. Mark Johnson – Still Being Complicit to NC’s Testing Culture

If you are a parent of a child in NC’s public schools, you may have received the following email from Mark Johnson:


It came to my personal email.

I have never given my personal email to Mark Johnson. So how did he get it? There could be no other answer than his office took them from local school systems. And getting lots of emails seems to be something that a man who is rumored to be running for higher office would want.

Remember the “alternate” website that Johnson had created in the wake of Hurricane Florence that detoured people from a .gov website to a .com website which collected email addresses? In fact, it mimicked a campaign website in almost every facet.

And the actual survey to see if parents think there is over-testing? That’s simply a ruse. A red herring. A distraction. From many things.

Johnson ran his campaign on reducing testing. He hasn’t done anything about that. He is almost halfway through his term in being “urgent” in transforming public education, yet he has been nothing but complicit to the NCGA’s testing culture. It’s almost as if he claims that he remodeled the house when all he did was clean up one room by putting everything in the hall closet.

Johnson offered a “Welcome Back to School” video to teachers in August of 2017, and while it seemed to say all of the “right” things, listening closely to what he did actually state and claim was a very good indication of the intentional disconnect that he has with our state’s public school system.

Here is the link:–SoVs.

As he talks throughout the 3 and ½ minutes of the video, the transcript of his words were shown.

johnson video

In that video message above, he says, “We have already eliminated tests such as the ASW’s, PISA, duplicative math tests.”

To claim that he has spearheaded the elimination of the ASW’s and the PISA is laughable. Why? Because the ASW’s were not a test. ASW was the Assessment of Student Work evaluation component for teachers of subjects that were not tested by state tests. In fact, ASW’s were eliminated because of budget cuts.

And the PISA? That’s the Program for International Student Assessment that is regarded as one of the best measures of how US students compare to their global counterparts. Only 5-6 thousand US students take the test per year. So, what Johnson is saying is that he stopped 150 students (approximately) in NC from taking a two-hour test that many in his political party use to argue their viewpoints about the deficiencies of public education.

Consider also that the state now requires every high school junior to take the ACT and according to what was mandated last year, if a student does not make a high enough score and have a certain GPA, then those students will have to take a remediation component their senior year on top of what his/her academic load is already (it has not actually been enforced – probably because of budget cuts).

What Johnson really has done is shown a reliance on testing and paying someone else to measure our kids.

Go to December of 2017. That was when Johnson presented a new school report card interface and “updated features” so that the public can view school report cards ( It has a lot of bells and whistles.

The letter attached to that new release by Johnson seemed well-meaning. The text can be found here –

Yet, no matter how much glitter and glam can be used to create an interface that appeals to the eyes, it doesn’t cover up the fact that those measurements the state uses come from …………… STANDARDIZED TESTS!

Look at the web address for the school report cards – That “sas” represents SAS, the same SAS that controls EVAAS which measures schools by a secret algorithm. That “.com” means it’s maintained by a commercial entity. It gets paid taxpayer money.

And he sends a survey to parents asking if they think that the state tests too much?

It has six questions. Only one of them deals with testing.

  • The first asks what grade your student is currently in.
  • The second asks what school system your student is in.
  • The third is this:


  • The fourth is about whether I as a parent find it easy or hard to help my child with homework in math or language arts.
  • The fifth deals with my view of whether my student’s education is personalized enough.
  • The sixth asks if I want to enter in information for another child.

Only one deals with testing. The rest deal with promoting his version of personalized instruction (which is about using technology to replace teachers), ability to help with homework (which boils down to socioeconomics), and how many kids I might have in public schools.

There is no place to offer comments.

Once I have answered those six questions for each of my students, I then come to a final screen.


I get a chance to win money. A gift certificate. $250 dollars.

That does not sound too ethical coming from a superintendent who is using his office to collect emails for a possible run at Lt. Gov. while being a puppet and rubber stamp for the policy makers who hope to weaken public education to keep driving reforms that a real state superintendent would defend public schools from.

But what it really means is that Mark Johnson is more committed to being complicit to the current testing culture as it is. Why? Because he has never shown in his actions that he would fight the current establishment in order to actually reduce testing.


We Could Have All Lost Career Status Last Summer If Not For What We Did in 2013 – Act Now For Tomorrow

Remember this from 2013? (From a 2013 NCAE Report) :


It says,

The Appropriations Act of 2013 (“budget bill”) strips away career status from teachers and school administrators and denies the opportunity for career status to teachers in the pipeline. Career status ensures an opportunity to be heard and a reasonable basis for being dismissed or demoted. When state law changed the system of employment of school administrators from career status to contracts in 1993, it grandfathered those who had achieved career status and allowed those in the pipeline to continue on the path for career status.3 These career administrators now will have their career status removed on July 1, 2014. The budget bill takes away career status of teachers in 2018, forcing all teachers to be placed on 1-, 2-, or 4-year contracts. (The option for 25 percent of teachers to voluntarily relinquish their career status in 2014 is addressed below.)

What that meant was that each district was to choose 25% of its teachers to be eligible to receive a bonus if they were willing to give up their career status which is commonly known as “tenure.” If they did not accept the bonus, then they would be able to hold on their career status until July 1, 2018 when the NC General Assembly would phase it out and replace them with one-year contracts for ALL teachers.


Simply put, it was hush money to keep veteran teachers from speaking out when schools and students needed it. To remove “tenure” is to remove the ability for a teacher to fight wrongful termination. In a Right-To-Work state, due process rights might be the only protection against wrongful termination when teachers advocate for schools, like the teacher who is writing this very piece.

Like the teachers who marched this past May.

Imagine if NCAE had not started the “Decline to Sign” campaign and sued the NC General Assembly to protect teachers who had already earned career status.

It would be gone by now for ALL TEACHERS.

Look at what happened this past election cycle because teachers voted and ADVOCATED FOR PUBLIC EDUCATION:

  1. Super majorities were broken. 
  2. Budget process now has to be open.
  3. Many municipalities and local LEA’s had school board shake-ups. 
  4. The two most egregious amendments to the constitution did not pass.
  5. Many privatizers and “non” public school advocates lost in races or had very close races.
  6. With more seats to Democrats, Mark Johnson is held in check.
  7. Large voter turnout (>52%).
  8. Teachers got galvanized.
  9. Young people came out to vote in droves.

What was done in 2013 saved us in 2018.

What are you willing to do in 2018 to help positively affect 2020? Because so much is at stake.



Before a Policy Maker Claims That “We Will Have To Raise Taxes On People To Fully Fund NC Schools,” Tell Him To Consider These Measures First

  1. Stop extending massive tax cuts to corporations and wealthy people. Maybe we as a state should not keep extending more corporate tax cuts for businesses and people who make significantly more than the average North Carolinian. We haven’t really seen the trickle-down effect from that here in our schools.
  2. Do away with the Opportunity Grants. We should not invest almost a billion dollars’ worth into a voucher scheme over a ten-year period when it has not shown any real success and put that back into the public schools. No study has conclusively said that vouchers actually improve public educational outcomes because of “competition.”
  3. Stop testing so damn much. When we measure student achievement through test scores and not through growth, we become addicted to “testing” and “teaching toward a test.” Buying tests and then allowing others to grade them for a premium and then disseminate information for the state costs money, not to mention that amount of time (which is a valuable and costly resource) that is consumed.
  4. And if we do give tests, then let our own people create and grade them. Why go to so many private companies to get tests and then pay them to grade them without any feedback? This state has an incredible university system with schools of education that can create earmark assessments and we can pay teachers to grade them. The money would stay in the system.
  5. Highly regulate the ESA’s and allow them to be spent on public schools as well. How about taking some of the money earmarked for Special Needs Education Savings Accounts (which might be one of the most unregulated versions in the country – just look at Arizona) and allowing parents to invest it back into services for their children in public schools?
  6. Not extend so much money into new unregulated charter schools. No report on the state level has shown they are working in the way that charter schools were intended to work: to be laboratories for public schools to find new ways of teaching and bring back to traditional schools to help all students. Instead many are run by private entities.
  7. Dissolve the Innovative School District. There is not community buy-in and all models of such “reforms” have proven to not help. Furthermore, it is giving money to a private entity.
  8. Repeal HB514. Bill Brawley’s bill is nothing more than legalized segregation and allows for municipalities to ask for county property taxes to create charter schools that only service certain zip codes. In essence it allows for more property taxes to be used to fund local schools and possibly state mandates.
  9. Allow ballot measures for school bonds to remain on the ballot. Let the voters actually decide, especially after two very destructive hurricanes destroyed so much in the eastern part of our state.
  10. Pass the budget in a democratic process. No more “nuclear options” to pass a state budget. Let the democratic process have its say. That means debate and amendments.
  11. Consider who has been beaten in the last elections who also championed bad budgeting policies. Just ask Tarte, Nelson, Malone, Stone, and Bradford how their recent elections went. Looks like Brawley might be singing a different song after all ballots are counted. The people spoke.

Then we can start talking about “raising taxes.”

Besides, out kids are worth it.